Skip to content

Scenes and Actions Part 2 – Creating Characters Through Actions

After speaking on the importance and difference in settings and scenes in crafting a screenplay, I’ll speak on the importance of creating your characters through actions. A character’s actions are essential in setting the tone and pace of a script.

A plot or story cannot move forward without the use of action. Each and every action a character makes helps in obtaining the end goal – a resolution. In some cases, a series of actions can leave the resolution open-ended for the audience to draw their own conclusions. In writing my pilot script, I found myself creating a serialized resolution where a strategic move on social media by my main character carried over to the next episode in the series. This allowed me to give my series a serialized focus not many animated series tend to explore.

A friendly tip from me to you is to create a loose outline of actions will happen in a scene. And I do mean loose outline as sometimes an action might seem okay in the initial stage, but doesn’t work when it comes to plotting out your screenplay.

action

Actions are all about being visual and timely. With most screenplays taking place in real time, you have to remember that the present tense is your best friend. It will help you keep straight what is going on in your character’s world. Throughout writing my screenplay, I had to keep in mind I was not writing a novel but a project that is meant for the small or big screen. Along with timeliness, action carries the plot visually as your characters exist on a realistic plane (real or fictional). In writing my screenplay, I found myself using various words to illustrate an action like walking – trotting, speeding, creeping. In one scene, I had to write about two characters walking down the hallway in their own ways to show more personality.

action (1)

Remember actions have their own levels within the script. Some are big and dynamic while others are nuance and subtle.  This keeps the screenplay from feeling monotone and uninspiring when someone reads the final product. Throughout my screenplays, I use a character’s actions to play in the relationship and dynamic with others. My main character tends to be affectionate and warm with her best friend while she tends to become timid and nonconfrontational when noticing or interacting with her nemesis.

When creating a character’s actions, you need to think about how they speak to the character’s personality and relationships.

In reading this post, I hope you will be able to craft actions that not only influence your characters but your story as well. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back next week to read about coping and understanding the creativity stopper – writer’s block.

Scenes and Actions Part 1 – Scenes and Settings

After speaking on the topic of dialogue, I’ll be tackling the topic of scenes and actions when it comes to creating dynamic and exciting situations for any character.

In this post, I’ll talk about the relationship between scenes and settings when it comes to creating a character’s world. While one might think these concepts are one in the same, a scene involves a series of actions perpetuated by a character(s). A setting deals with the environment where many conflicts and scenes take place within the character’s world. Both are essential in the art of world building as the characters need them to create a visual presentation through words. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is a great example of this as her use of descriptions and adjectives helped in creating the world millions of fans witnessed on the big screen.

hogwarts2

Creating and envisioning settings are instrumental in creating dynamics between characters along with their dialogue. I think about the old adage “the setting is another character” when it comes to perfecting your screenplay. It must be visually descriptive and vibrant just like the characters. I’ll use my script as an example. I need the cultural shock aspect as my main character is being introduced to a new environment. I describe everything from the pink and white decor in her bedroom to the white walls and blue lockers within her new high school to give the reader a sense of what is going on within this realistic fictional world. For me, the world is just as much a part of the story as the characters moving the plot forward.

A tip I use is creating a series or film bible for your script that way you already have the settings and descriptions in place for reference. As I revise and edit my script, I constantly refer to mine when making sure a setting is true to the vision I have.

1413300537882_wps_27_Life_of_Pi_Morgan_Spence_

A scene from Life of Pi recreated by Morgan Spence

Once the settings are in place, creating scenes are a bit easier. Each scene must carry the plot forward in some way (big or small). When thinking of a scene, you must ask yourself some questions: is this important to the story? Does it move the plot? Does the rapport and actions within the scene come off as natural to the character(s)? If your scene doesn’t answer any of these questions, you might need to lose the scene. I’ve had the experience in my process as an introduction scene between my main character and her neighbor read fine in the initial writing, but once I revisited it, it didn’t make sense in the overall story. I tried changing dialogue and moving it around, but in the end, I ended up rewriting the whole scene. It was the best thing I could have done for the plot.

To save on wasted space, I would suggest creating an outline of how you want your script to flow. This way you can have your scenes laid out for you to refer back to when needed.

Hopefully, this post will aid you in creating the best settings and scenes for your characters to play in. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back later this week to read about creating actions to enhance the reader’s experience and your characters when reading your script.

Dialogue Part 2 – Vernacular and Purpose

In continuing with the dialogue theme, I’ll be focusing this post on vernacular and purpose when it comes to creating a unique character within your real or fictional world.

 

While voice and personality set the foundation for a character, it’s the use of vernacular and purpose that can set one character apart from another. Using these two techniques set the blueprint for their dialogue. Like voice and personality, these two work in tangent to a build a character of their language and outlook, especially when there are multiple characters involved.

Screenshot-2015-02-25-09.02.07

Using vernacular can influence the dialogue of character(s). Whether a Southern American, German transplant or U.K. diplomat, vernacular is something as a writer you might want to think of when trying to create a multi-cultural cast. But vernacular can be a tricky beast as you don’t want the dialogue to be stiff, forced or even worse stereotypical.  Take my pilot for a spec script as an example. I took a Southern American girl and dropped her in our neighbor of the North, Canada. It features a cast of teenagers from various ethnic backgrounds so my duty as a writer is to mix some Southern terms from my main character while injecting some Canadian phrases in a natural manner. For me, I use vernacular sparingly as not to create caricatures rather than characters. That’s a little tip from me to you.

Another tip on vernacular is to make sure to examine some terminology through books and websites specializing in certain cultures and nationalities along with consulting people of those backgrounds for more authenticity.

purpose

Vernacular is important, but finding purpose in a character’s words is pivotal in displaying a character’s personality. There has to be meaning and intent when creating lines of dialogue or the words will fall flat. Every line in every scene needs to move the plot in some way, but if it doesn’t, a pen or the backspace button is your best friend. Always think about what the character’s mission is in that moment when writing dialogue.

 

Another trick is keeping your character’s personality and background in mind when using these techniques.

In reading this post, hopefully, you will be able to present your character(s) in a whole new light. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back next week to read about building a world for your characters through scenes and actions.

Dialogue Part 1 – Personality and Voice

As mentioned last week, creating good dialogue is an essential element in setting the tone for your character(s).  I’ll go more in-depth on the subject by focusing on the personality and voice.

dialogue_t658

Voice and personality are key in molding a character into the vision you have in your head. They inform you of what a character will or won’t say in conversation (character-to-character or inner dialogue). These two work in tangent to create an individual of distinction, especially when there are multiple characters involved.

Personality is the first concept that should come to mind when creating dialogue for the character(s). Whether a sadistic control freak, a depressed creative or a paranoid introvert, the dialogue must fit the personality. As a writer, it is your job to know your character(s) inside and outside when crafting dialogue. You don’t want a character with a sunny disposition speaking on some issue like a death in a negative manner. That language wouldn’t fit who the character is.

Along with personality, a character’s voice helps in shaping the dialogue in your script. Tone, language and phrasing can inform a character’s dialogue and their interaction with other characters (major and minor). Voice can be a tricky area if you don’t have a handle on a character’s personality. You don’t want someone whose language is peppered with clever, dry humor to have a line where bathroom humor shows up. It could come off as either not understanding your character or a jarring moment that takes the reader out of the script.

listen

Like in last week’s post, a trick you can use in developing personalities and voices by creating character bios to help keep yourself straight when writing for multiple characters. These pieces of the puzzle can inform what the dialogue on the page.

 

 

Hopefully, this post helps you in formulating dialogue through characters’ personalities and voices. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back later this week for more on creating the dialogue for your character(s) through phrasing and vernacular.

Character Development Part 2 – Dialogue and Actions

After looking at developing a character’s personality and character traits, I’ll be focusing on the importance of dialogue and action in shaping how your characters are perceived.

Every line of dialogue and action in your script should be tailor-made for the character you are writing. When writing for a character, remember to ask yourself these question: would he/she say those words? or Does that action go inline with their personality?

A trick I always use is thinking of the character and their voice when writing the script. A bonus for you would be to create character bios to help keep yourself straight when writing for multiple characters. Sometimes, things can get a little confusing, and those pieces of the puzzle can be a big help in the process.

Dialogue influences action and vice versa. Dialogue is the way a character expresses themselves either verbally or internally (for my inter-dialogue heads). It dictates the audience’s perception of a character – good or bad, nice or naughty, sardonic or good-natured. A character’s words are their calling card. Action, on the other hand, allows the character to express themselves with a sense of physicality. Your character can be a master manipulator, prankster, klutz, athlete, artist, etc. based on their actions.

Both are forms of expression that inform each other in a way that is realistic to human behavior. An action can set a character’s words into motion as a response to another character or a movement. Dialogue sets precedence for any action as a response to another character’s words or lack thereof.  Keep this in mind when writing and rewriting your screenplay.

A book I often refer to when writing dialogue and action:

Image result for writing the tv drama series

Writing the TV Drama Series by Pamela Douglas

 

Hopefully, this post helps you in formulating your actions and lines of dialogue for your script. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back next week as I go more in-depth about creating the best dialogue for your character(s).

Character Development Part 1 – Traits and Personalities

 

Now, that we’re past feedback and the preliminary editing, I can get into the real matters at hand like dialogue, action. setting and this week’s topic – character development.

The key to any good script is creating great characters. These beings you write on the page help to bring your stories and ideas to life. Each character on the page is a part of you (whether consciously or subconsciously) when you begin writing or revising – fiction, non-fiction or equal parts – your screenplay.

This book can a major help in developing your characters:
Image result for the writer's journey

The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writer (3rd Edition) by Christopher Vogler

Let’s get into the business of personalities and personal traits. When writing a script, you must make sure that each character has their own distinct personality. Whether it’s an alpha (male or female), a sidekick or an antagonist, one-dimensionality is not accepted. Even villains have feelings and thoughts that make them complex. The best way to achieve this is by creating personality quirks that set them apart from other characters. A nervous tic. A personal secret. Anything that makes them stand out from the pack.

Here are the archetypes Vogler mentions in The Writer’s Journey:

Hero

The hero is the audience’s personal tour guide on the adventure that is the story. It’s critical that the audience can relate to them because they experience the story through their eyes. During the journey, the hero will leave the world they are familiar with and enter a new one. This new world will be so different that whatever skills the hero used previously will no longer be sufficient. Together, the hero and the audience will master the rules of the new world, and save the day.

Mentor

The hero has to learn how to survive in the new world incredibly fast, so the mentor appears to give them a fighting chance. This mentor will describe how the new world operates, and instruct the hero about the innate abilities they possess while gifting the hero with equipment.

Ally

The hero will have some great challenges ahead; too great for one person to face them alone.  The journey could get a little dull without another character to interact with.

Herald

The herald appears near the beginning to announce the need for change in the hero’s life. They are the catalyst that sets the whole adventure in motion.  Occasionally they single the hero out, picking them for a journey they wouldn’t otherwise take.

Trickster

The trickster adds fun and humor to the story. When times are gloomy or emotionally tense, the trickster gives the audience a welcome break by challenging the status quo. A good trickster offers an outside perspective and opens up important questions as they act as the comic relief to the story or the actions of the other characters.

Shapeshifter

The shapeshifter blurs the line between ally and enemy. Often they begin as an ally, then betray the hero at a critical moment. Other times, their loyalty is in question as they waver back and forth. Regardless, they provide a tantalizing combination of appeal and possible danger by creating interesting relationships among the characters, and by adding tension to scenes filled with allies.

Guardian

The guardian, or threshold guardian, tests the hero before they face great challenges. They can appear at any stage of the story, but they always block an entrance or border of some kind. They were basically saying “Don’t pass go, return back to your nice bubble.” Then the hero must prove their worth through either tricky, intellect or action.

Shadow

Shadows are villains in the story. They exist to create threat and conflict and to give the hero something to struggle against. Like many of the other archetypes, shadows do not have to be characters specifically. It can be any force preventing the hero from obtaining their goal.

archetypes

One note to remember: archetypes are good, stereotypes are not. When writing, you must create characters that are complex beings (human or not) that have real thoughts and feelings. It makes your story more interesting and compelling. There’s no room for one-dimensional tropes.

By writing this post, I hope you are better equipped to take on characters’ personalities and traits. Just remember that story is important, but your characters are what make the story. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back later this week as I speak more about creating a character’s actions and dialogue.

.

Feedback Part 2 – Peer and Professional Critiques

After speaking on the benefits of table reads earlier this week, this blog will focus on peer and professional feedback when it comes to your screenplay.

Having family and friends read your work is one thing, but letting your writing peers and screenwriting professionals comb through your words is a different level of anxiety. But you shouldn’t be nervous as getting feedback from other writers can be very rewarding when it comes to tweaking your screenplay.

Writers reading other writers’ work is like iron sharpening iron as they give you a keen insight make your script better. They can tell you what works, what needs work or what doesn’t work at all. It is very helpful in terms of hearing what your words may or may not be implying from another writer’s perspective. This only leads to more fine-tuning of the best characters or scenes and trimming the word fat for a better, more polished screenplay.

script-revision-photo-copy

As you think about pursuing peer and professional feedback, I’ll give you some places that have helped me on my screenwriting journey. Here are a few Facebook and LinkedIn pages:

Screenwriting Magazine

Organization of Black Screenwriters

Screenwriting Blogs, Interviews, and Advice

SCREENWRITER NETWORKING

Secrets of Screenwriting Group

Screenwriting

Writers’ Guild of America Discussion Group

Along with group pages, there are quite a few websites that can aid you in perfecting your screenplay. Here are a few:

The Black List

LA Screenwriter

Reddit Screenwriting

Screencraft

Screenwriter 911

Writer So Fluid

These are just a few of the resources you can use on your screenwriting journey.

 

By reading this post, I hope you feel a little bit better about your peers and industry professionals looking over your work. Now, you just need to find a safe place to let your words be free. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back next week as I talk about character development in a screenplay.

%d bloggers like this: